Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Take a trip to Neverland!

As Jacksonville Opera Theatre (JOT) rehearses and gears up for their production of Peter Pan to open at Oxford Performing Arts Center, we interviewed Technical and Artistic Director Nathan Wight for a little behind the scenes details!

- Tell is a little about the history of JOT and how people can contribute to future performances. 
Nathan Wight
Jot began in 2003 with two one act operas that we produced with a budget of a whopping $199.80. We have since progressed to being a nationally recognized and award winning company producing musicals and operas on a much grander scale every year. Our foremost mission is to change the face of arts education in northeast Alabama. We give performance opportunities to JSU students, local High School students, elementary students, and community members.
We cannot provide these opportunities without the support of people who also recognize the important roles that art plays in our everyday life. We are always looking for monetary and in-kind donations, but more importantly people who want to work alongside us.
I should mention that OPAC has been a great supporter of the arts in NE Alabama. Our partnerships with them have produced some really great productions like Phantom and Into the Woods. 

- Past performances have included Into the Woods and Phantom of the Opera, why Peter Pan?
It is interesting that you should ask about why we chose Peter Pan. It was actually chosen at the second to the last performance of Phantom of the Opera. John Longshore and I sat in the Box office at OPAC, and asked...”What are we going to do next?” Les Miserable was not available, and this seemed like a good choice for another joint venture.

- What are some other favorite musicals of yours? 
My most favorite musical is Carousel. We did a production of that a few years back, and people still talk about it. Many don’t like it because it is a tragedy, but I really enjoy the way it can move people.

- What's been your favorite part of building Peter Pan? 
My most favorite part of building any show is that moment when it is all done. Of course, anyone who has been to one of our shows knows that I am fond of imagining things in a different way. One of my favorite comments ever was “It wasn’t until half way through the show that I realized we were on a ship, and there wasn’t anything on the stage other than a couple of doors and a chair on wheels!” This production of PP is no different. There is only one bed, just part of a boat, and a different kind of window. For crying out loud, we did Carousel without a Carousel!

- Do you have a favorite moment or scene? When & why?
I don’t have a favorite moment in this show. . . But I find myself frequently during rehearsals with this silly grin on my face. The story and the music is so incredibly delightful.
I suppose that one of my favorite moments will be Slightly‘s line, “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” I can’t wait to see the audience reaction to the surprise.

- Who should and why should folks come see the show? 
If you are looking for a wonderful way to start your new year, this is it. Peter Pan is a timeless classic that has something to say to the child in all of us.

Peter Pan runs January 4-10 at Oxford Performing Arts Center! For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"Film is light and shadow..." Annie Baker's The Flick

One play audiences might not be as familiar with is Annie Baker's The Flick which received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The story follows three movie ushers and the work necessary to keep "The Flick" up and running. This performance captures life, at times mundane and at other moments rich and entertaining. 
So we interviewed one of the performers, Jessika Holmes as she gets ready for opening.

How did you become interested in theatre? 
I started as a child and I never stopped. When I made it to college, I found out that there is a scholarly aspect to it and lovely analysis, which I love. It will keep changing and keep me interested for the rest of my life.

Who are some actors you most admire? 
I really only have cheesy answers to that, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence.
What's been your favorite part of the Flick? 
My favorite part of the Flick has been the intimate actor work that this production requires and depends on. This play is life on stage.

Why should folks come see the show?
It's intimate and beautiful. You do not get a chance to see this kind of theatre often. It is an experience and a small look into life and who we are.

Come catch this show, Thursday, November 29 and Friday, November 30 beginning at 7:30 P.M. at the Stone Center at Jacksonville State University. 
With some adult language and situations, this piece is appropriate for ages 15 and up.

"My Colors are Blush & Bashful!"

Dylan Hurst
As they prep, we sat down with Steel Magnolias' Director Dylan Hurst & Assistant Director Tristan Waid to ask them a few questions about theatre and the process of building this show.

- How did you become interested in theatre? 
Tristan: Watching my big brother while he was a student at JSU. 
Dylan: I became interested in theatre when I was 11 and my mom decided to help our backstage for CAST’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. Watching the show come together from the first table read to the final production was so amazing to me I knew I had to be a part of the magic. 

- Who are some actors you most admire? 
Tristan: Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, and Lily Tomlin. 
Dylan: I admire anyone who can make a career out of acting. It’s not an easy thing to do and it requires a lot of hard work into something that may never pay of. But I have a sweet spot for old Hollywood performers like Judy Garland and James Dean. 

- What's been your favorite part of building Steel Magnolias? Do you have a favorite moment or scene? 
Tristan: I enjoyed working on the first scene of Act 2 when Ouiser doesn't get that her grandson is gay. 
Tristan Waid
Dylan: My favorite part of the Steel Magnolias process has been directing the more emotional scenes. It’s not often in community theatre that we get to dramatic shows. Most of the time people prefer to see comedies so it’s always great when as an actor or director you get to dive in to raw human emotion. M’Lynn’s pivotal emotional break has been a very therapeutic thing to direct for me personally. 
My favorite moment in our production of Steel Magnolias has to be the end of the first scene of Act 2. It’s a fun scene with a lot of heart and when Shelby leaves the beauty shop at the end and the lights begin to fade and all the ladies look as she leaves just touches my heart. It’s almost like a group of mothers watching their child leave for the first day of kindergarten and something about that sense of family just really makes you smile.

- Who should and why should folks come see the show? 
Tristan: It's a beautiful story of friendship and a great visual of the dynamic relationship of a mother and daughter.
Dylan: Everyone should come see Steel Magnolias! I think it gets cornered as a show that only appeals to women but that’s not the case. It’s a show that centers around strong female characters and how they cope with the things life throws at you. It’s a show about family, friendship, and community and how we lean on each other in times of joy and sorrow. That’s something that is universal and everyone can relate to. 

Come get your hair and nails done at Truvy's, with shows Thursday, November 29, Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 at 7:30 PM, and there's a show Sunday, December 2, at 2:30 P.M., performed at the McClellan Theatre.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Walking through History

Georgia Calhoun, 89, is a walking history book. I had the privilege of sitting down and interviewing her about the Freedom Riders Monument. Calhoun has been involved with saving properties and artifacts that normally would be looked over, including the historical spots that witnessed the story of the Freedom Riders.
In the beginning, many parts of Anniston were opposed to marking the areas downtown that were associated with the events because it was assumed that would highlight an ugly  time of our history, but the reality is Anniston played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement in America.
The Freedom Riders were proving that federal laws were not being properly enforced not only in interstate travel but especially in the southern United States.
The importance of highlighting these occurrences goes deeper than creating negative stigma, and it stands alongside other events of the Civil Rights Movement: the Edmund Pettis Bridge, 16 th Street Baptist Church, and so many more. The Freedom Rider Monument represents the battle of  segregation and basic human rights that were denied.
When asked about her favorite element of the Freedom Riders Monument Calhoun replied “Janie Forsyth, and how she gave water to the Freedom Riders.” Calhoun encourages visitors, returning and new, to read the story and do some research on not only the burning of the bus but the contributing events that took place before or after.
Calhoun reminds us “As you pass through this way you are not just seeing Anniston as it
is now, but learning the history of Anniston then…if you don’t know where you are, you won’t know where you’ve been or where you’re going.”
Slow down, make that stop at 1031 Gurnee Avenue, and reach into the rich history of Anniston, Alabama. “Even at 89,  I’ll be fighting to teach (the history or the Freedom Riders),” Calhoun exclaimed. Sunday, May 14th, 1961 is a Mother’s Day that changed the America.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Behind the Scenes: Willy Wonka Jr.

This weekend, CASTKidz presents Willy Wonka Jr., so let's get to know Willy Wonka before we see the show. We sat down will Leila Acheson, who graces the stage and transforms a world of creativity and pure imagination and brings it to life with almost 100 CASTKidz. 
How did you become interested in theatre?
I’ve always loved the arts (singing, dancing, etc), but what really made me want to become involved with a theatrical program was going to see my best friend in a local musical at age 6. I was hooked!

Who are some actors you most admire and musicals you most love?
I greatly admire Amanda Jane Cooper (who is currently Glinda on Broadway) because she has kept a love for the Lord through her life and career, as well as the amazing Sutton Foster. How does one not adore her?!
There are so many musicals whose scores, lyrics and roles have inspired me, but the ones who have most affected me as both an actress and a person are Newsies and Anastasia. I had the privilege of seeing Anastasia in NYC this past April, and the overall beauty of the plot-progressing score struck me instantly! As an avid ballet, tap and jazz dancer, I also greatly enjoy the various dances within both of these musicals.

What made you want to get involved in CAST Kidz?
During the year before I joined Cast Kidz, I didn’t have a major theatrical outlet. I had attended several Cast Kidz performances previously, and I had several friends within the group. I was beyond delighted to find the class schedule matched my own!

What's been your favorite part of Willy Wonka?
My favorite part of playing such an iconic character as Willy Wonka is being able to bring a little touch of myself to the role. There is one point in the song “There’s No Knowing” in which I laugh maniacally, and being able to interpret the undercurrent of the following scene is such a joy!

Did you have a favorite number to rehearse and learn?
My favorite number is without a doubt “There’s No Knowing!" Wonka is rather unlike me in it, which forces me to fully immerse myself in the character!

Why should folks come see Willy Wonka with the whole family this weekend?
Everyone should come see Willy Wonka Jr because it is the perfect blend of a classic film and the magic of community theatre!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Christmas Village J'ville

Nancy Gillespie has been the Chairman of the Jacksonville Arts Council for 4 years. The Jacksonville Arts Council promotes the arts in schools and work with children all year long. The Arts Council is responsible for the Fair on the Square, Celebrate Jacksonville and the upcoming Christmas Village.

The Christmas Village will take place on Saturday, November 17th at the Jacksonville Community Center, the doors open at 9 AM. Admission to the event is free, but there will be many local vendors set up throughout the Village. Santa Claus will be there and available for pictures for a fee. Many of the vendors will offer hand-crafted products that you can’t get anywhere else. While a few vendors will accept cards, cash is highly recommended. Most of the proceeds made from the Christmas Village event will be poured back into the community to support the arts, music programs, and art programs in the schools as well. There will be a few performances throughout the event, starting with the Kitty Stone Elementary Choir at 10 AM. While admission is free to the event, donations are accepted graciously, and they can be made directly to schools or performers.

Between the hours of 9 AM – 12 PM, there will be a Children’s Shop for the younger kids. Nothing in the shop will be over a $1.00, so they can buy gifts for other family members. This is a fantastic opportunity to give the kids a chance to “shop” on their own accord and still support the community at the same time. Gillespie is most excited for the community interest that has followed the Christmas
Village, stating “The response we are getting not only from the vendors, but the community as well. People are excited and eager to see their favorite vendors return and what new vendors have to offer.”

The Christmas Village is a wonderful opportunity to jump off the holiday season, and grab few unique gifts as well. Come enjoy the day, and be prepared to have fun! Bring the entire family for a chance to get ahead on your Christmas shopping!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Little River CanyonFest

Nestled in the foothill of the Appalachian and atop Lookout Mountain, one finds an outdoor haven of waterfalls and cliffs called  Little River Canyon. This site was designated as a preserve in the National Park Service in 1992, and since then, this beautiful spot has welcomed millions of visitors to hike trails and take in the views. Located adjacent to Desoto State Park, locals and visitors have abundant recreational opportunities to seek.
This weekend is the Canyon Center's 10th Annual CanyonFest, “A Celebration of Art and Nature.” This day is filled with arts, crafts, music, educational programs, food and fun for the entire family. Pets welcome on leashes, and admission is FREE, while donations are appreciated.
So grab the whole family, take in the fall foliage and beautiful landscapes, and #OptOutside this weekend!